The Task is hard before the Delimitation Commission for J&K. Here’s why?

| Daya Sagar
  • The task before the Delimitation Commission for the Legislative Assembly of UT of J&K is very challenging, of course it is hard too.
  • The height of challenge could be seen from the reactions which have come from some ‘Kashmir Valley’ leadership  in response to reported contents of the draft delimitation proposals.
  • Delimitation Commission has to design its own model and for that it requires collection of extensive ground information.
  • People of the state have very high  hopes in the 2020 Delimitation Commission hoping that even out of earlier 83 seats 43 to 44 seats  may fall in the basket of Jammu region

The task before the Delimitation Commission for the Legislative Assembly of UT of J&K is very challenging, of course it is hard too, but it is more appropriate to name it challenging since the Commission has to perform a task which no Delimitation Commission in India may have performed so far. The height of challenge could be seen from the reactions which have come from some ‘Kashmir Valley’ leadership  in response to reported contents of the draft delimitation proposals that the Retd. Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai headed Delimitation Commission has shared with the Associate Members of the commission on 20th December 2021 where in  just 6 MLAs would be added to the list  of the present MLAs representing the areas that lie outside Kashmir valley against only one to  what exits for areas of Kashmir valley, Where as going by the guidelines  for delimitation of Legislative Assembly segments there appear  possibilities for transferring almost  an equal number more out of the numbers existing for Kashmir valley to areas outside Kashmir Valley .To have an idea of the extent of wrongs that need to be corrected we need to brief ourselves on the princely state of J&K / J&K state and the Ut of J&K.  

The administrative order of the erstwhile princely state of J&K as regards the two regions of Jammu and Kashmir was some thing like (i) Jammu Region-36315 sq km : 5 Districts ( Mirpur, Jammu, Kathua, Udhampur, Reasi) comprising of 18 tehsils (Jammu, Samba,Akhnoor, Ranbir Singh  Pura; Mirpur, Bhimbar, Kotli; Reasi, Rajouri; Kathua, Jasmergarh, Basoli; Udhampur,   Ramban, Ramnagar, Bhadarwah,Kishtwar ) plus 2 Jagirs ( Poonch and Chenani)  (ii Kashmir region – 22133 sq km : 3 Districts ( Muzaffarabad, Baramulla, Anantnag) comprising of only 10 Tehsils (Anantnag, Kulgam, Awantipura. Srinagar; Baramulla, Sri Pratap Singh Pura, Uttarmachhipura; Muzaffarabad, Uri. Karnah). In 1947 after Pakistani illegal occupation  of some areas including Mirpur district of Jammu Region and Muzaffarabad district of Kashmir region the un occupied areas ( Jammu, Kathua, Udhampur, Reasi , Poonch Jagir, Chenani jagir )  in Jammu Region ( 26293 sq km) were reorganized as 6  District of Poonch, Rajouri ,Jammu, Kathua, Udhampur  and Doda  and the areas 2 districts  (Anantnag and Baramulla Districts) in Kashmir Region ( 15948 sq km) were reorganized  as 3 Districts of Anantnag, Srinagar and Baramulla. The actions that need to be kept in view for looking into and correcting the wrongs could be like the ones here under.  

First was in 1951. While drawing out the Constituent  Assembly for drafting the  J&K Constitution as a state of India Democratic Republic when adhoc delimitation was done @40000 population per/ seat as per1941 Census (total 40,21,616 including Ladakh Region) ) allocating 43 seats over Kashmir Region and just 30 seats over Jammu Region so wrongly assuming the reference population for Jammu region as just 12,00000 out of * 20,01,557  and  populations as large as 17,20000  for Kashmir Region out of 17,28,686.

Second was after 1957 elections. When elections were repeated for Legislative Assembly by retaining the distribution of seats  same as it was done for Constituent Assembly on adhoc( wrong)  basis i.e 43 MLAs for Kashmir Region and 30 for Jammu Region totally ignoring that by that time J&K Representation of People Act 1957 had been enacted laying down very very clear parameters ( Section- 4, Sub Section –2, Clause (a)-i population, ii geographical compactness i.e area  iii: Nature of terrain  iv  Facilities of Communication v. and the like considerations ) for the distribution of single member segments in the Legislative Assembly (b) Section -50 of J&K Constitution  had constitutionally allocated only 12 elected members in the Legislative Council for areas in Kashmir Region  and 14 ( 2 more than Kashmir Region ) elected members in Legislative Council for Jammu Region. To be brief when Jammu Region had constitutionally more (14) elected MLCs still lesser (30) MLAs were delimited for Jammu Region.

Third was again in 1966. In 1966 on adhoc basis only  one seat was reduced from areas falling in Kashmir Region and  seats  over Jammu region increased from 30 to 31 only where as needed was at least 38.

Fourth was in 1975. In 1975 by 12th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1975 of 19-08-1975 when  Clause – a   of Section 48  of J&K Constitution  was amended to increase the seats open  for elections from 75 to 76 out of 100  but again on adhoc basis seats were delimited as 32 for Jammu region as against min 38 to 39 and 42 as against fair number of max 35-36 for Kashmir region since in terms of J&K RPA of 1957 where at least 4 out of 5 deciding parameters were physically in favour of Jammu Region that also had more elected MLCs in Legislative Council (14 as against 12 for Kashmir Region).

Fifth time was in 1979. Before June 1979 Jammu Region spread over  26293 sq km area  had 6 District Administrative Units  where as  Kashmir Region spread over just 15948 sq km had only  3 District administrative Units  but through  SRO 306 of 6/6/1979 Government arbitrarily  increased the districts to 6 in Kashmir region too i.e Baramulla, Kupwara, Anantnag, Pulwama, Srinagar, Badgam.

Sixth was in 1984. In view of objections from Jammu Region for the injustice being meted like not increasing districts in Jammu Region in 1979 while the same were increased from 3 to 6 in Kashmir Region  Government appointed in 1981 Wazir Commission and Wazir Commission  in 1984 recommended increase of districts in Jammu region from 6 to 9 and  from 6 to 7 in Kashmir region (  some people of Jammu region did not feel satisfied with even this  recommendation )  but the J&K Governments did not implement even the Wazir Commission recommendations.

Seventh time was in 1995. An exercise, rather the only exercise, for regular delimitation of Assembly Segments  had been started in 1981 ( first vide SRO No; 537 of 02-12-1981 Delimitation  Commission  ( DC) headed by Justice J. N. Wazir , Retd CJ of J&K HC )  & was still continuing in the 1990s. The Delimitation commission by its order of 27 April 1995 distributed 46 MLAs over Kashmir Region and only 37 MLAs over Jammu Region totally defying the guiding parameters laid down in the J&K RPA of 1957 (  *Geographical Compactness (Clause a- ii) : Jammu region is much less compact than Kashmir region: *Nature of terrain (Clause – a – iii  ): The terrain of areas in Doda , Kishtwar, Udhampur, Reasi, Kishtwar, Ramban, Kathua, Rajouri and  even some parts of Samba District  is bad and difficult as compared to most of the areas in Kashmir region.*Facilities of Communication (Clause – a- iv), The surface transport infrastructure in Jammu region  was at much lower level as compared to Kashmir region making it more difficult for a MLA  visit his people or for people to visit him ;* and   the like considerations (Clause – a – v).}. Writer too had submitted his draft notes on the exercise done  by him to the Chairman Delimitation Commission in 1994 to enable the DC to  have a birds eye view (The material prepared by the writer  had also  been published in the leading dailies of J&K.

Eighth was in 2002. It was in 2002 that the then National Conference lead J&K Government sensing growing awareness amongst people and fearing  a fair delimitation  next time got the J&K Constitution amended through 29th Amendment Act of 2002  providing in  Section 47(3) in a way  that next Delimitation for Legislative Assembly  could be held only after 1931(  after data of  census done after 2026 is available.

Ninth was in 2006-07. In 2006 the PDP-Congress Government headed by Ghulam Nabi Azad was in place and  without doing any rational exercise as well as ignoring the 1984 Wazir Commission recommendations for making 9 districts in Jammu Region and only 7 districts in Kashmir Region instead  vide SRO 185 of 22 May 2007  increased the Districts in Kashmir Region from 6 to 10 and in Jammu region also to10 in a way giving 300 % more than what was recommended by Wazir Commission (in 1984) to Kashmir region & only 33% more to Jammu region.

Tenth time could be the present exercise in 2021 looking at what the present Delimitation Commission for UT of J&K has been reported to have shared with its Associate members on drafts being prepared  where in it has been reported that 6 more seats out of the 7 new seats will be distributed over Jammu Region along with the existing 37 seats i.e making total 43  and 1 seat over Kashmir Valley in addition to existing 46 thereby making 47 in Kashmir valley.

People of the state have very high  hopes in the 2020 Delimitation Commission hoping that even out of earlier 83 seats 43 to 44 seats  may fall in the basket of Jammu region leaving only 40 to 39 seats for Kashmir region. After taking into account new 7 seats, the commission may distribute 47 to 48 seats of over Jammu region  and about 43 to 42 seats over Kashmir Region. But the draft proposals that have come in reports too are defying the parameters laid down for proving a representative of nearness to people in the Legislative Assembly as well as the constitutional facts like Section-50 of J&K Constitution where under Jammu Region had more elected MLCs (14) as compared to Kashmir region that had lesser (12 only).

No doubt the task that the  present DC has is unique since there is no exercise done earlier of the type that critically makes use of the 5 parameters for delimitation of a Legislative assembly since it had been only J&K where in the past serious wrongs had been done. Delimitation Commission has to design its own model and for that it requires collection of extensive ground information, analysing the information and fitting that into the working model specifically designed. It appears DC could not collect and  has not been provided enough of working tools and assistance by the ‘Associate Members’. Hope the Delimitation Commission does not finally shake the faith of the people outside Kashmir Valley.

(The author is a Senior Journalist and Analyst of J&K affairs. He tweets at @kashmirdayasagr)

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